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When Darcy Lewis was six years old, after a session of learning how to control and use her Sensitive ability, she asked her Daddy for one thing.

Not for him to spend time with her, she knew that he had a job that kept him far away from her that was very important. So, while that was what she wanted more then anything, she knew that it would be impossible to grant. So, instead, she asked, "Daddy, can I have a puppy?"

He glanced over his eyeglasses at her before he removed them and picked her up, settling her on his lap. "A puppy. Why do you want a puppy?" he questioned and she began to explain.

She wanted a friend. And she knew she didn't deserve one now, she didn't know how to take care of a puppy now, but maybe one day?

And her Daddy frowned a little before he smiled. "Darcy, my angel, that proves to me that you do deserve one, later. And I'll teach you everything I can about how to take care of a dog. I've had a few in my life, and I'll get you books and even see if your Nana will teach you as well," Daddy answered and Darcy squealed, hugging him tightly and feeling the thrum of good emotions that came off of him in waves.

It was nice to know she would get a puppy, one day.

Phil Coulson wondered if he could beat his head against a brick wall if it meant that this nightmare would end. Fury kept pulling him for more jobs and Victoria was getting a little irritated with him, and Darcy was endlessly patient.

And he had a friend.

A friend he always knew he would need to call on, but back when he thought it would be him and Sarah and a dog.

He calls the man up and says, simply, “I need to take you up on that offer.”

“Call ahead,” was the only answer he received.

“Of course.”

And Coulson focuses on his life and holding it together at it unravels, seemingly before his eyes, and begins to live for the shriek of, “Daddy!” and a bullet of six, nearly seven, year old as she runs into his waiting arms.

It is worth the way he aches down to the marrow, how it jars his bruised or broken bones, and he just holds her tight, lifting her up as he twirls her around.

Lives for teaching her about dog psychology and privately looking into how to train a dog to be a personal guard dog. He feels as if his life is narrowing down to pinpricks of existence and he clings to them desperately as he wonders if he’s doing the right thing in keeping Darcy, but knows giving her up wouldn’t put her out of danger and possibly just more.

And then, one day, he runs into Clint Barton.

Coulson is running, service piece drawn, and he ducks around cover as an arrow flies through the air. He grins internally and spins around, not pausing as he aims right at the dirty young man. “Halt!” he ordered, not flinching as he stares at the arrow that is pointed his way.

They do not move, in the middle of a stand off, and Clint shifts, as if to move and Coulson tightens his grip on the gun. “Do not move!” Coulson snarls.

Because this man is just one of many who could have hurt Darcy. Someone who was a threat and he stared at the arrow, at the eyes, and Coulson suddenly could see that this man never would, never could, harm his little girl.

The man twitched to the side and Coulson stared at him.

“You’re an Alpha Sensitive,” Coulson stated and Clint flinched back.

Coulson is surprised that he doesn’t get an arrow through the throat, or worse. “It isn’t in a file. I just know the signs. Must be hell on Earth, which is probably the only reason I am standing here and not lying in a gutter. You’ve been missing on purpose, because you could feel what I feel. You know I’m not hunting you down for any rule or regulation. You know I’m hunting you because I am trying to protect someone,” he stated and he can tell he’s talking Clint down.

There is a rumble of thunder, another, and it begins to rain, hard.

It pounds down on them, and they do not move. “Come with me, and I’ll make sure that no one ever finds out about that ability,” Coulson promises.

Because he can.

Because he knows what to do.

“Sorry, Agent. But I’m not a team player,” he answered and Coulson fired off a shot that was lost in the thunder and an arrow buries itself into his right thigh.

He lets out a strangled sound of pain, but Clint is gone, and Coulson is calling it in.

Clint gets away scot-free.

Coulson gets a month off to spend with his daughter and he’s more relieved than he can say.

But for once, he has something outside of work.

He wants to save Clint Barton.

It is…refreshing and Darcy is looking less pinched.

Coulson is debating what he’s about to do as he finds Clint Barton again.

He’s not supposed to be there and Coulson wonders if he’s going to be on the same side as SHIELD or against them once more.

Clint is cleaned up, but there is a faint scar across his upper arm that looks fresher than the rest.

Coulson has a feeling that it is from his bullet.

“Going to come with me this time Barton?” Coulson asks, because he knows, for a fact, that Clint knows he’s there.

“Should I be concerned about the last name basis Agent?” Clint responds.

“Not today,” Coulson answered.

“Going to shoot me?”

“Not now.”

“You’re a good shot.”

“Thank you.”

There is silence, stretched out and as taunt as the bow in Clint’s hands.

“Who are you trying to protect?” Clint asked.

“If you join SHIELD, I might tell you,” Coulson responded.

“Again, not a team player.”

“Pity, that. So, do you get headaches, or have you managed to calm that?” Coulson responded.

He’s pretty sure that the only reason the arrow isn’t loosed in shock is because Clint is just that good. “What headaches Agent?”

“Again, I know the signs. I know what to look for,” Coulson pointed out.


“No,” Coulson answered, his voice cracking slightly and he winced at that.

“I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t kill her. A reckless teen did. With a car. Vehicular manslaughter,” Coulson responded softly.

Clint did not speak again.

“Who are you going to shoot?” Coulson asked.

“The guys with purple symbols on their outfits,” Clint answered.

“Us too. Please don’t shoot one of my agents. I will be very displeased with that,” Coulson murmured.

They fell silent and Coulson left Clint to what he was doing.

When he returned after it all went down, Clint was gone.

But he had left a number behind.

On the phone he usually only used to call his daughter, he dialed it.

“Barton,” Clint greeted.

“You thinking of joining after all?” Coulson responded.

“No. Just wanted to see if you would actually call. Why did you?” Clint answered.

“Because I can. Because you missed on purpose instead of just shooting me through the heart or throat. Because you could be more. I have a slew of reasons, but I doubt you’ll believe any of them,” Coulson answered.

There was silence and Clint huffed. “Who are you protecting Agent?” Clint asked.

“If I told you that, and you aren’t of SHIELD, I would be doing a bad job,” Coulson responded.

“Why are you trying so hard to recruit me?” Clint questioned.

“Because I can. Because when we were staring each other down, you could have cut ties and run, but didn’t. Because you could be more. Again, I have a slew of reasons, but I doubt you’ll believe any of them,” Coulson responded as he parked his car in front of a dark house.

“You fascinate me Agent,” Clint responded and he hung up.

Coulson closed the cell phone and he pocketed it before heading inside.

There was no squeal, but the next morning he was sure his daughter bruised ribs.

Clint Barton had been brought in.

Coulson had tackled him, and Clint was looking worse for wear.

But Coulson was home and he smiled at his nearly eight year old Darcy. “Darce?” he questioned softly and she looked up at him.

“Do you still want that puppy?” he asked and she perked up before she threw herself at him.

Coulson laughed and hugged her tightly.